THE market for mobile phone accessories has evolved in recent years, say vendors, as phone users adapt their tastes and hardware markets expand. But some of that growth has been checked by the economic downturn, they added, even if 2010 is looking like a better year than last.
While the Kingdom’s economy grew through the middle of 2008, led by a boom in real estate and property, mobile merchants like Chhim Chenda, the 28-year-old owner of the Hak Se Phone Shop, saw their businesses grow. Then crash.
“Recently, business has dropped off by 30 percent or 40 percent, since the world financial crisis affected Cambodia’s property market,” Chhim Chenda said at her mobile phone store, on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard. “At the time, many people came to my shop to buy mobile phones and accessories. However, now it sounds a bit quiet.”
But a slight recovery in Cambodia’s economy has meant an uptick in sales, Chhim Chenda said. “Our business is better than last year, 2008 through 2009.”
The Hak Se shop sells goods that come mostly from China: phones and accessories, as well as phone bags, memory sticks, batteries and chargers. Young Cambodians like to upgrade the models of their phones, Chhim Chenda said, while older customers are fond of changing their phone covers.
And with newer, shinier models come new types of accessories from covers to dangly things that hang off handsets to Bluetooth headsets and those regal looking phone stands that come in a variety of increasingly bizarre designs.
Heng Heang, director of the Kirirom Phone Shop, also on Sihanouk Boulevard, said more and more outlets open each day, indicating an increase in demand for mobile phones and accessories and a market improvement over the past two years.
“My business declined 40 percent to 50 percent during the economic crisis,” he said, adding that sales of accessories had held up better than for expensive handsets because they were much cheaper.
And tastes for accessories are changing all the time, he said.
“Five years ago, Cambodians like to play with electric lights on the mobile phone, but now that is already out of date,” he said.
Phone customers spoken to by the Post said that sometimes their appetite for phone accessories spiraled out of control – changing covers, in particular, can become addictive.
“Only two years ago, I used about 12 phones, and I always changed the mobile-phone cover to upgrade from red to black and black to blue – and also shiny plastics – every month,” said Ouk Sarath, a 19-year-old security guard at Phnom Penh Centre.